Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted (2022) Movie Script

But perhaps we'd better begin
at the best place for stories:
at the beginning.
He was responsible
for aliens attacking the world.
He blew the moon
out of the Earth's orbit.
And he turned a bunch of puppets
into superstars.
He was a wonderful chap.
One of the most honest chaps
I've ever met in my whole life.
He's a very evil...
a very evil man.
Ladies and gentlemen,
please welcome Gerry Anderson.
One has to bear in mind
that I was always intensely
interested in space travel.
I mean, I've always...
..looked at the starry sky
and just wondered,
what is out there?
I remember, in fact, my brother,
who was a Mosquito pilot
during the war,
and I couldn't have been very old,
but he came back on leave once,
and I remember very specifically
that he said to me once,
"Assuming it were possible
to fly in a straight line
"across the universe,
"you must eventually come
to the end of the universe.
"Or the edge of the universe.
"And if so, what is beyond?"
Well, of course,
that kind of mind-boggling question
really set me thinking,
and it's kept me going until today.
My father, Gerry Anderson,
produced 18 series
and four feature films,
owned six Rolls-Royce motor cars,
had four children,
across three marriages,
and made and lost his fortune
twice over.
But beyond these headlines,
I actually know very little
about the man that I call Dad.
What inspired him?
Why was he never satisfied
with his work?
Why were his relationships
so fractious?
I've been loaned my very own FAB 1
to make a journey of discovery,
visiting some of the key locations
and speaking to some of his closest
family, friends, and colleagues,
with the hope that I will finally be
able to understand what made the man
who, for many,
made their childhoods.
OK, Venus?
OK, Steve.
Right, let's go.
Very few people know
anything about my background.
I don't once remember him telling me
about a happy childhood experience.
I was in a house, an old house,
living right at the top,
in one room, with my family.
He spent a lot of time
drumming into me
how poor his family were
when they grew up.
Down below, we had a woman,
a very old lady,
who used to bang on the ceiling
with her stick.
It was Neasden, it was bleak.
Opposite, we had a man -
I can't remember his name now -
but he was just fresh out of jail.
And on the bottom floor,
we had a mad artist
and a prostitute.
I think that Dad's climb
from the poverty of childhood
was the most important endeavour
in his life.
It's only right
that a bloke should have ambition.
But that constant drive for success
was probably quite damaging for him,
because in his mind,
he never reached it.
I always feel that I have failed.
You know that failure
cannot be tolerated.
I think Dad's drive to succeed
was probably due to the way
he was brought up by his parents.
And, I suppose,
the way that they were raised, too.
First of all, dealing with my
grandparents on my father's side,
they were Jewish.
They came as immigrants
to this country.
And when they arrived here,
the immigration people said
to my grandfather, "Name?"
And he said, "Bieloglovski."
And the immigration officer said,
"I can't possibly spell that.
Your name's Abrahams."
And so that was his name.
Now, on my mother's side,
my grandmother lived in Hackney,
and the family, that's on her side,
all grew up to be very,
very Christian.
Now, when I say Christian,
I don't mean they went to church,
but I mean very English.
It was...
a tough place to be, as a child,
between two parents
locked in battle.
They had a lot of arguments,
and it wasn't a happy marriage.
They should never have been married
in the first place,
but there we are, they were.
I loved Grandpa Joe,
he was a lovely man.
But he wasn't for Grandma Debbie.
And she...
She was very unhappy her whole life.
My mother was kind of always
saying how she hated him,
hated the marriage.
But the mixture was explosive.
Sometimes my father,
there would be a row going on,
and she would say,
"I'm going to bed",
and he would say, "No, you're not",
and he would lock the door.
And I'd have to sit in a locked room
for maybe three hours
while these two were going
hammer and tongs at each other.
And consequently, I had just about
the most miserable childhood
it's possible to imagine.
I think it's inevitable
that Gerry's upbringing,
and the struggles he had,
would feed into his work.
Because, you know,
that's what all good creatives do.
They take what they know
and put it into their work.
Do you remember how it all started?
I guess none of us
will ever forget that day.
I was brought up, really,
by a mother
who didn't want to be Jewish,
didn't want to have anything
to do with the Jewish religion,
and by my father, who was Jewish,
and did want to have
a lot to do with religion.
I think her...
..her non-Jewish beliefs
actually extend far beyond that.
Gerry's mother
was unbelievably anti-Semitic.
One day,
this was just before the war,
a laundry boy came
to collect the laundry,
which was in a sheet tied up
with a list on it,
and he took the laundry, very
cheerfully, "Thank you very much",
and she walked back,
perhaps to get the money for the
last week's laundry, I don't know,
and he said, "Hold on a minute."
He had seen the name Abrahams.
And as she was returning,
he shouted out,
"We don't take laundry from Jews."
And he threw the laundry,
which hit her fair and square,
and slammed the door.
He was teased...
for having a Jewish surname.
I also remember at Neasden,
going to school,
and kids dancing in a circle
around me, saying "Jew boy".
So I think he very quickly
developed feelings, as a kid,
that religion was a thing
that only brought negativity.
I don't really think
you'll find much, if any religion
in any of the shows
because of that.
So, with the aid of my mother,
I totally rebelled.
So she,
after a considerable argument,
forced my father to change
the family name by deed poll.
I remember her saying,
"I always liked the name Anderson."
I know that name.
From everything I can tell,
from what he said,
as a child,
he was very close to his mum,
and actually, with hindsight,
he can see that
she was quite a manipulator.
And she never had a kind word
to say for anybody.
I grew up, rightly or wrongly,
very, very much on my mother's side.
So my father was the enemy,
and I was an ally to my mother.
Therefore, I inherited all her ways,
and I hated his ways.
He became a mummy's boy not because
Debbie was a wonderful mother,
but because she set the stage
for Joe being a useless,
ugly, lazy, slovenly man.
My mother used to humiliate him.
And, er...
When I was a kid,
she used to say to me, jokingly,
"Come on, you ugly devil,
"you look more like your dad
every day of the week."
It used to break my heart, you know.
Because I was brought up to think
that my father was ugly.
So when she would say that to me,
I used to get very upset about it.
Gerry's relationship
with his father,
I think only began to heal
only a short time
before Joe's death.
But it was almost too late,
because he was taken ill,
he went into hospital,
and I believe up until the day
he had his final heart attack,
he was still waiting on Debbie
hand and foot.
When I arrived,
my mother was actually
talking to a neighbour
about the pain she'd been having
in her stomach,
and how she felt sick,
and all the rest of it.
And my father came in
with a tray of tea.
Tea, m'lady?
Tea on the lawn.
And he had just had a heart attack.
And an ambulance arrived,
and he was taken to hospital.
And it was just about when
Thunderbirds was due to premiere.
And he was in hospital,
I think in Maidenhead,
and Gerry was so proud,
cos he managed to get
a television set into the ward.
And he was semiconscious when
they wheeled over a television set
for one of the first showings
of Thunderbirds.
We're not really sure if he could
hear it, or see it properly,
but we've got notes
that suggest how proud Joe was
of what his son had achieved.
It was very important to Gerry
that Joe had seen him
hit the heights, as it were.
Get some rest now, Dad.
I'll see you tomorrow.
When he died, he said something
to me which was incomprehensible,
and I said, "I can't understand."
And he said it again, and I said,
"I can't understand."
And he said, "Can I have a pencil?"
And he...
He wrote...
"It all happened
And he lapsed into unconsciousness.
And I, to this day, never know
what it was he was going to write.
He must have had a terrible life.
Yeah, course, if I could live
my time over again,
I would have been much closer
to my father than I was.
Why did I wait so long?
Oh, John, you didn't know.
I just feel very sad now
at the way I treated him.
And in fact,
that's a very interesting point.
You will see few, if any,
"mother" figures
in any of the work that Gerry did.
Right, Father.
OK, Father.
Sure thing, Dad.
Yeah, Father.
What's happened, Father?
My father is an honourable man.
When my mother died, I had to try
to be a mother and a father to him.
It's not as if you had a mother
to look after you,
so don't let me down.
I think the only happiness
he found in his childhood
was with his brother.
This older brother was
the only thing he looked up to,
was the only thing that almost
made life worth living, I suppose.
Lionel Anderson
was Gerry's older brother,
older by, I think, seven years.
Good-looking guy.
Gerry absolutely idolised him.
I think Lionel
was almost godlike to him.
When the war broke out, I was 11,
and he was joining up,
so I guess he was probably 18.
It wasn't really until the war
that I used to see very much of him.
I just have very strong
from the things he did.
I mean, during the Blitz, he was
Light Rescue, and so he was a hero.
Lionel was a classic boy
growing up in the '30s,
late '30s, early '40s.
Loved everything to do with
loved everything to do with speed,
The opportunity
to join the Royal Air Force
would have been something
that was massively exciting to him.
Debbie doted on Lionel,
clearly was much fonder of him
than she was of Gerry.
You almost feel like
Gerry was an afterthought.
So all of her focus and love,
you feel,
is directed towards one person.
Gerry mentioned his brother
numerous times.
He was very proud of his brother
and his contribution
to the Second World War.
What happened was he was sent
to Arizona for his training.
Cos you couldn't train over England,
you'd be shot down
by German aircraft.
So he was sent to Arizona,
to an airfield called Falcon Field.
He was an inveterate letter writer.
I'm sure Debbie read
and re-read and re-read them,
and read them out loud to Gerry.
And judging from his letters,
he seems to have maintained
a much more healthy relationship
with my parents than I did.
Nothing I can see in the letters
that suggests a close relationship
with his father.
His mother, on the other hand,
is a totally different relationship.
A very intense relationship.
It probably wasn't
a healthy relationship.
I think as a role model,
Lionel would have been something
that was almost impossible
for Gerry to live up to.
I mean, if you've got a brother
who's flying an aircraft
over Nazi-occupied Europe
every night,
obviously one naturally
thought of him as a hero.
Let's face it, he was a hero.
Like all of them.
He's quite a guy.
And that is a thing
which I would hear him repeat
over and over and over.
And he painted quite the picture
of this hero pilot.
It felt very much
like he was the most positive
influence in Dad's life.
I think it was from Lionel that
he got the idea for Thunderbirds,
or certainly the name
for Thunderbirds.
Obviously Lionel's having
an opportunity to do things
that Gerry could only dream about,
and yet his brother is achieving.
I mean, Hollywood came to Lionel.
He was at Falcon Field
when an American film crew,
producer, turned up
to shoot a film,
and it involved some of
the big actors at the time.
He danced with Gene Tierney
when they had a party there.
And there was another Hollywood star
called Preston Foster
that he wrote about.
All of the cadets are actually
brought into the film
to parade, to march past, to be
in group scenes, what have you,
and they can clearly see that
they're actually in this film.
And the name of that film will be
very familiar to everyone,
because the film was called
Thunder Birds.
Cor, so that explains it!
It must have been a huge blow to him
when Lionel, you know,
After his squadron
converted to flying the Mosquito,
they also changed roles,
and his role now
was as an Intruder pilot.
And what that meant was that they
flew ahead of the bomber stream
to shoot up German night fighter
Every morning when the postman came,
it was just the dread of receiving
the telegram. Which finally came.
And it was while
on one of those Intruder sorties
that, sadly, Lionel was shot down.
"The Air Ministry regret to report
"that your son,
Lionel David Anderson,
"failed to return from an operation
over enemy territory
"and has been posted as missing."
It would have been
absolutely catastrophic.
Because although there would have
been an element of hope,
the reality is, though,
that word "missing"
invariably meant "dead."
He didn't make it.
He just didn't make it.
My mother was
a very emotional person,
and, er...
she tended to wear her heart
on her sleeve.
I'm aware, anecdotally,
that Debbie is purported
to have said...
"It should have been you.
"Why was it Lionel?
It should have been you."
And I think if we add that
to the fact
that she created nigh on a shrine
for Lionel,
with this portrait
that used to hang,
and she would show everyone
who came around,
I think there's a lot of credibility
to that story.
You wouldn't forget something that
a parent had said to you like that.
Well, my brother - and I'm quite
serious when I say this -
he really should have lived,
and I should have been the one
that was killed.
And I just feel that, really,
he was more suited
to go through this life than I was.
And I would happily
have swapped places with him.
I think if you look back
on the episodes of his shows,
you'll find that there are always
strong characters who are pilots.
I think the action figures,
with Mike Mercury,
with Scott, and with Virgil,
to a degree,
I think these
are all hero characters
who probably embody certain elements
of Lionel in them.
You saved our lives.
I'm glad we could help.
All I know is somewhere out there,
there's a living creature
in distress.
I can't let that call go unanswered.
Before his death,
Lionel wrote a letter home
in which he joked with Dad
about wanting him to do well
in school and make lots of money,
so he could look after Lionel
when he returned.
But for various reasons, that
wasn't really an option for Dad.
I was never gonna become anything
at secondary school.
I'd like to think I had flair,
and certainly common sense,
but in terms
of academic qualifications,
I was just, you know,
like a barrow boy.
He was not a fan of school at all.
I don't think he took
his education seriously.
I think his schooling
had been pretty poor,
had been pretty broken up, because
he was evacuated in the war.
Dragged off with Debbie with,
you know, "I'm leaving Joe again"
and all the rest of it.
He had trouble reading and writing,
which he later claimed was dyslexia,
although I think
it's probably just poor education.
His handwriting was... not great.
But he always tried his best
to cover for it.
He didn't want people to know
that he was ill-educated,
or, you know, had trouble
with reading and writing.
He had wanted to be
a fibrous plasterer.
When I say plastering,
this was ornamental plastering,
not plastering walls.
And I really excelled,
and I was top of the class.
And so, obviously,
I was going to become a plasterer.
And who uses plasterers?
The answer is, film studios.
Oh, films?
Oh, that must be
a very exciting life.
Very soon after he started
this training in plastering,
he was having terrible rashes
and skin peeling up his forearms.
And it turned out
it gave him dermatitis.
It was really horrible,
and the doctor said,
"Well, it's obviously the lime
and the plaster that's causing this,
"and there's no way
that you can become a plasterer."
Well, I had already set my heart
on studios, films.
I really knew nothing about it.
And I spent a very, very long time
walking around
from studio to studio,
saying to the gate men,
"Are there any jobs going?"
And this was obviously
the start of everything.
My father, through a relative
of a relative of a relative,
knew Sidney Bernstein,
who was chairman of Granada.
And he managed to get me
an interview with the great man.
And I went along, and he said,
"What do you want to be?"
And I said, "A cameraman."
And he said, "Well, look,
everybody wants to be a cameraman.
"I'm going to put a date
in my diary.
"If you come back
in six months' time
"and tell me that you still
want to become a cameraman,
"I will give you a job
on a camera crew."
Dad was never hugely patient.
What I remember very clearly
is when he said "six months' time",
he might as well have said
"45 years' time".
It seemed such a huge amount of time
to wait.
So I came out and just dismissed
him and the interview from my mind,
and I thought,
"If I'm gonna be a cameraman,
"I might as well do
something to do with photography."
So I walked into Regent Studios,
on Regent Street,
which is a little passport studio,
and I was a developist.
He then managed to get a job
with the Ministry of Information's
Colonial Film Unit.
And I did, as a trainee, projection,
and camera crew, and editing,
and so on.
And so I decided that I would work
in the cutting room.
And from there, I heard that
there was a vacancy going
in Gainsborough Pictures.
And so that's how
I really came to be
a member
of the British film business.
In the late 1940s, I think 1947,
he was called up to the RAF.
The joining up of the RAF
was something which
he had been dreading,
because he was such a mummy's boy.
When I finished my initial training,
we took a so-called
intelligence test,
and I was then interviewed
by the education officer,
and he said,
"Well, you have very,
very low marks.
"In fact, so low,
that we can only offer you
"either general duties
in the cookhouse..."
If I cooked like you,
I wouldn't shout about it neither.
"..or military police."
Which says something
for the military police.
He said, "What did you do
on civvy street?"
And I told him I was
an assistant film editor,
and I could see he was
quite startled by that.
And then he offered me
a so-called C-trade,
which allowed me to become
a radiotelephone operator,
which I did.
Dad exited the RAF in 1949.
With good grades across the board.
So he must have been proud of that.
We were very fortunate, really,
because people who were called up
for National Service
had to be reinstated in the job
they held when they left.
And so when I came out,
I was sent to Pinewood Studios.
And he very quickly
rose through the ranks,
from sound editor, to assistant
film editor, to film editor.
He also met Betty Wrightman,
who he soon married.
And they quite quickly had Linda,
first daughter,
and then quite soon after that,
Joy, second daughter.
After being jettisoned from the RAF,
his personal life and his career
seemed to be taking off.
After a couple of years, he found
himself working for a company
called Polytechnic Films,
where he was appointed director
on a series called
You've Never Seen This,
which, ironically, was never seen.
And it was whilst
working on that series
that he met his future
business partner, Arthur Provis.
And that's how we got together,
and we became very friendly.
And so when that ill-fated series
came to an end,
we said, "Why don't we start
our own production company?"
Which we did.
Hence AP Films,
Anderson and Provis.
We got on very, very, well,
and we took with us
some friends that we had met.
Reg Hill, brilliant man.
And John Read.
We started the company,
and we needed a secretary.
And there's a very interesting thing
because we advertised
for a part-time secretary.
When you were growing up,
what did you want to be
when you grew up?
Er... I could say "famous."
So we put an advert
in the local paper
for a secretary for two days a week.
I didn't know how to get into
the film business at all,
and then one day, I saw an ad,
you know, in a newspaper,
a small film company
looking for a Girl Friday.
I thought, "Oh, I can do that."
And I received a call,
in response to that advert,
from a very jolly lady,
who said,
"Yes, I can keep you all in order,
"it sounds very interesting,
and I'd love to do it."
And a couple of hours later,
my partner, Arthur Provis,
received a call from Sylvia Thamm.
And then I got a call from them,
really desperate.
And, er...
So, at the end of the day, I said,
"I think the lady who called me
would be ideal."
And he said, "The lady who called me
was wonderful,
"I'm sure she'd be right."
And we got on very well, so we said,
"Let's not argue about it,"
so we flipped a coin,
and Sylvia got the job.
Right from the word go,
she meant to have Gerry.
And I mean, I liked her.
I was very intrigued by her,
because she had been divorced twice,
and I'd never met anybody
who'd been divorced even once.
And I was very naive.
And I have wondered,
on many occasions,
had that coin
landed the other way up,
things would be very different
You feeling regret?
No, no. Just curious.
The company really just sat dormant,
with its telephones and notepaper
and filing cabinet,
empty filing cabinet,
waiting for the phone to ring.
I thought, naively,
that people would ring and say,
"Good morning,
I'd like to order some films.
"So, we'd like one feature film,
three commercials
"and two documentaries."
Before you know it, Dr Beaker,
you'll be filming in Hollywood.
Of course, that didn't happen.
I think we made a commercial
for Little Noddy.
For one of the Ricicles.
Hello, children.
It's me, Little Noddy.
We were sort of scratching around,
"My God, the phone's not ringing."
But finally, and just as we were
about to close the company,
a woman by the name of Roberta Leigh
turned up on the doorstep.
Who was driving a Rolls-Royce,
and she had the chauffeur,
and she sort of swanned in
and announced herself,
that she was a children's author.
And said she'd heard
we'd made some puppet commercials,
and she'd got this idea
called Twizzle,
and were we interested?
So that's basically how we met.
He was desperate to get a job
when he came to me.
He'd made a Noddy commercial.
She was a rich lady,
and a bit out of our league, really.
And they couldn't get started.
Roberta was quite difficult
to deal with.
And we found later
that she was going around
to all the different companies
and getting the cheapest quote.
And that's how we were introduced
into the world of puppetry.
I mean, I can't tell you
how upset I was,
you know,
to be making bloody puppet films.
Hey, manners, manners!
But they turned out
to be his fortune.
And it was actually at that point
that he started to make...
real technical advances,
because he was so embarrassed
by puppets.
And then he got offered
another puppet series.
Gerry Anderson,
him and I were like brothers.
We even shared a car at one stage,
when we couldn't afford two.
And, er...
He was a wonderful chap.
One of the most honest chaps
I've ever met in my life.
I don't know if there was
any specific moment
that the relationship ended.
But as time went on,
that started to fray a little.
Not because of any fallings out.
Gerry says it was because he wanted
to buy the place we were in
for some amazing amount of money,
and I didn't agree with it.
He's convinced that was the reason.
I don't think
that was entirely the reason.
Dad wanted to push forward
and do bigger and better things,
and make more technical advances.
And there was a lot of risk
involved in that.
They were two different people.
I was rather more careful
than Gerry. Gerry would have a go.
And I tended to be careful.
And it gradually made me
more and more nervous.
Not a bit like Gerry.
He didn't want to do anything,
and Gerry wanted to go all in.
I thought we'd get ourselves
into a lot of trouble.
When we made Four Feather Falls,
this is where my relationship
with Sylvia developed
and my marriage broke up.
Arthur was horrified by the way
Gerry was carrying on with Sylvia
when he had a wife and two babies.
And I decided to go.
Now, I was really ill-equipped
to have a serious relationship.
She was, and is,
a very, very nice person.
I personally don't think
that we were really suited.
I think when he married Mum,
he hadn't matured emotionally.
He hadn't left home, he hadn't had
girlfriends before my mum.
They were kind of pushed into it,
and it wouldn't have
run a long term,
whatever had happened,
whether he had met Sylvia or not.
It was doomed from the start.
I certainly, today, I look back,
and think, "What an awful thing."
If I could replay it,
I certainly would never have
allowed it to happen again.
It's too late now.
Too late.
Joy and Linda had a tough time,
because their parents separated
when they were both quite young.
I never told anybody
who my father was.
Sylvia was the new partner.
She was not particularly sensitive
to our needs.
Me and my sister
lived at home with Mum.
And we used to go and see Daddy
once a fortnight.
He came and picked us up.
There's pictures of us
all together as a family,
and it really is very constructed.
When Gerry's first marriage failed,
he was quite young.
And I think probably
he didn't realise
how badly affected
the girls would be.
We were sitting at the tea table
in the kitchen,
and of course, by then,
we were used to him not being there.
And Mum said, "There's something
I need to tell you.
"Daddy and I
are going to get divorced."
And I said, "Why?"
Although it's bonkers, because
he hadn't been there for ages.
So, Mummy said, "Well, Daddy
doesn't love Mummy any more."
And I said, "Well, if he doesn't
love Mummy, then I don't love him."
When we were kids, and we went
to spend the weekend with Daddy,
I mean, the contrast was incredible.
Because Mum was struggling.
She did three jobs.
She was a secretary, she was a
seamstress, and she worked in a pub.
He was picking us up in his Roller,
and she was doing three jobs.
And then we'd go
and have a completely different
lifestyle for two days.
And, er...
As the years went by,
we drifted apart.
We just bec...
We just became estranged, I think.
The great sadness is...
that Dad...
I don't think ever really conveyed
to any of them how he truly felt.
He talked about it in private,
to very, very few people,
that it was a great source
of regret to him
that he was not able
to bring those kids up.
I don't think Daddy had a very good
model for happy marriages.
That's not what
he'd experienced growing up.
I mean, they came back on the scene
later, which was nice.
I was living in London
and a friend of mine came over,
and she said to me,
"Did you know your dad's on
at the Barbican tonight?"
"Why don't I take you?
He's doing a book signing."
And I said, "Oh, I don't know.
I haven't seen him for ages."
And she said, "Oh, go on.
"It's about time you two got
together", blah, blah, blah.
So we went, and he did a talk,
and it was really interesting.
Good evening.
Thank you for coming along tonight.
And I was sitting
right in the front row,
but I hadn't seen him for so long,
he didn't know what I looked like.
So when we came out,
everyone was queueing up
to get their books signed,
and when I got to
the front of the queue,
I gave him my book, and he said,
"What would you like me
to write in your book?"
And I said, "You could write,
'To Joy, love Dad.'"
And, erm...
Which he nearly had a heart attack.
Dad's failure to maintain
personal relationships
began to impact
his professional life
almost as soon as it had started.
I didn't get along very well
with Roberta Leigh,
and I didn't...
You know, in fairness,
maybe she didn't like me either.
He's a very evil... A very evil man.
But I decided that we should
really do our own series now.
Our position was precarious
right up until the time
I met Lew Grade.
We were going under.
And we had made Four Feather Falls.
And I remember,
we sent the last completed film
to Granada by post.
And back came a cheque,
the final payment.
And we waited for somebody
from Granada to say,
"Well, what are you going
to do next?"
And I haven't heard from Granada
to this day!
And Gerry and Reg had come up with
an idea, I think with Barry Gray,
about a car
that could do everything.
Which was Supercar.
I was hoping that
somebody would say,
"This is wonderful,
how much money do you want?"
And of course, that didn't happen,
and we, again,
were about to close our studio
when a man by the name
of Connery Chappell came to see us
and said, "I know a man
whose name is Lew Grade,
"I'm sure he would be interested."
And he made an appointment.
So Gerry went up
and met with Lew Grade.
And I showed him the brochure,
and I remember him looking at it,
and he said, "Yeah, looks good.
How much is it going to cost?"
Let's say it was something
like 3,000 an episode.
I remember Lew slammed the desk
with his fist -
I mean, it frightened
the living daylights out of me -
and he said, "I can't possibly
afford that sort of money
"for a children's show."
And then I think he must have seen
that I looked very frightened,
and so he then became very kind
and said,
"Look, Gerry,
I tell you what you do.
"Let me see, the time now
is five o'clock.
"Go back to the studio,
"come back tomorrow and tell me
you've cut that price in half,
"and I'll give you a contract
for 26 shows."
Well, I was in my car,
going back to Lew.
I had failed.
We had cut a third off the budget.
And I went up,
and I was nearly in tears.
I'm sure I was smelling like
a polecat.
I hadn't shaved, been up all night.
And I said...
I said, "I'm terribly sorry,
"but there's no way
we can cut it in half.
"But we've managed
to cut off a third."
And Lew said,
"OK, you've got a deal."
And on the strength of that,
we went into production.
So, what are we waiting for?
This is just the start of
a long, friendly relationship.
We were probably the dot-com company
of the '60s.
That's what we were there.
Looking back, I think Gerry
was the king of hardware,
and Sylvia
was the queen of software.
At first, I lived with her.
She owned a little, tiny cottage
in Bourne End,
and I moved in with her there.
And I think here, again,
all that would be fitting
for me to say
is that you can't marry somebody
unless there is something there.
I mean, you don't meet somebody
and say, "God, I hate you,
will you marry me?"
There obviously was a time
where we got on very well,
and I was very attracted to her.
The marriage...
started to get bumpy
shortly afterwards.
It became progressively more bumpy.
It became stormy.
In the extreme.
The storm's getting worse.
It has to be stressed that
she has her story. This is mine.
Sylvia wanted to get married
in Caxton Hall.
Which was the grand venue
for people who wanted to have
big, grand, flashy weddings.
And I suppose it was the first time
I had realised
that she was very keen on publicity.
Certainly, all the photographs
you see of the two of them,
she's kind of centre stage,
and Gerry's looking maybe
slightly embarrassed,
or rather that he'd
be somewhere else.
Gerry was quite happy not receiving
the same sort of publicity.
He really didn't want
to be in the public eye.
And obviously that caused tension.
She was, and could have been,
an incredible help to me.
She helped me by reading scripts.
I used to dictate the scripts
to her.
On Thunderbirds, I dictated
the whole script straight off.
From the time I can remember,
he had a... either an Amstrad
or a Peacock computer,
which had a 25 MB hard drive.
And he would sit at it and type.
Gerry was a one-finger typer.
A slow and painful process.
When he was writing a script, he
would quite often either dictate it
and I would take it down on paper,
or I would type it straight
as he was dictating it.
I was just the mechanism
to get it onto the paper.
He'd always dictated his scripts,
I think.
And I remember to this day,
we were sitting on the balcony
of our apartment in Albufeira,
and I said,
"There is one more thing,
"right on the front,
'by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.'"
A thing I've always regretted.
Because it wasn't
by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.
When it came to the nitty-gritty
and the sweat of scripting
until the early hours,
you know, when things were wrong,
no, she wasn't there.
The way we worked,
Gerry had the ideas,
the adventure, the Boys' Own
adventure, if you like,
and the idea for the...
And later on,
obviously we met with our team,
and they came up with ideas.
A husband-and-wife team,
that was invented by the media.
There were four directors.
Myself, Reg Hill, Sylvia
and John Read.
The team was four people.
But he was the creative force.
He was the one with the vision,
is what we all thought.
I think that I've always had
a sort of a storehouse
of unconnected ideas,
and if somebody says,
"Look, I want a script
for a new series a week from now,"
it's a question of getting
all these latent ideas out
and putting them together
and making a new show.
The idea for Thunderbirds
really came to me
as a result
of a German mine disaster
which happened in 1963.
What happened was
that the mine was flooded.
A lake over the top suddenly
went straight down into the mine.
And there were many miners
trapped in air pockets,
some 1,000 feet below ground.
And I avidly listened to
the news bulletins every day
to hear the progress,
and they were finally rescued.
And so I started to think a rescue
story would be really great.
Look, there are 600 people up there
with about 40 minutes to live.
Now, you can't help them,
but I believe we can.
If it were to be a rescue story
in a science fiction setting,
then of course we had to have
some very modern aircraft.
And so the series, you know,
was gradually formed.
But who should take credit
for the shows
became increasingly unclear
as time went on.
Dad and Sylvia's memories of
the creative process seem to differ,
and remain contentious to this day.
Thunderbirds are go.
I was at a press conference...
Looks like the action's gonna start.
..and everybody was
yattering away, and what a noise,
and drinking,
and all the rest of it,
and I'm talking to a guy
from the press,
and she has a very piercing voice.
You can hear it
from a long way away.
And I heard her say,
"Well, the way it works is
I sort of do all the creative work,
"the characters, the scripting,
all the ideas,
"and Gerry looks after the cameras,
that sort of thing."
Well, I could have turned around
Can you imagine?
Can you just imagine?
And I can see how that would have
been absolutely infuriating for him,
because, as far as I can tell,
almost every show idea
was inspired by something
he had seen or experienced,
or a particular technical
fascination that he had.
I mean, obviously any show
is a huge collaborative effort,
and some of those contributors will
have more influence than others,
but it's all got to start somewhere.
One of his great strengths
was seeing the value of people
and being able to promote them,
or give them opportunities,
which then fed into
the Gerry Anderson ethos
of making the best possible
He was always keen on collaboration,
and he thrived on it,
but I think if someone were to try
and take credit for his work,
it would have just been too much
for him to bear.
I think that most people
who are knowledgeable,
and who are aware of the product,
are aware of Sylvia's contribution.
I do the characterisation.
Gerry was an expert at what he did,
and she was an expert
at what she did.
She provided many human touches,
in costume and characterisation,
in little touches of humour
which might not have been
there otherwise.
Her contribution
was pretty terrific.
And the two of them combined was
a double whammy you couldn't stop.
But unfortunately, life,
as it sometimes tends to do,
gets in the way,
and gets up to its tricks.
And it didn't work out.
She was very talented,
but she was very determined
about what she wanted.
She was very media savvy.
She was a very,
very attractive woman.
And she could be very, very nice.
When they had the premiere
for Thunderbirds,
she had a dress made for me,
and it was absolutely beautiful.
I feel that I was really
playing dressing up, really.
It was playing with my dolls,
She had a way of getting round me,
if she wanted to.
And she came into my room one day
and said, very sweet about it,
"Gerry, can I please, please, please
play Lady Penelope?"
I may not get another chance.
And I said, "Well, no",
because I wanted...
Fenella Fielding, was it?
I wanted her to play the part.
And very often,
when I disagreed with her,
life became very miserable
as a result.
And when we had
these sort of terrible rows,
she then had the capacity
to maybe hold a hand out,
and we'd go to bed,
and it would all be marvellous.
Eventually, I said OK.
OK, Penny.
He felt like,
"I've already made one mistake.
"I don't want to make another one."
So I think his relationship
with Sylvia
became one of constantly doing
whatever was necessary
to keep her happy.
To keep her smiling.
To help her further her career.
And that was to his, I think,
personal detriment,
and, eventually,
his professional detriment as well.
But she was a tough cookie.
She was so good as the character,
I forgive her everything.
With the marriage falling apart,
certainly from Dad's point of view,
anyway, in the mid-'60s,
Sylvia broke the news to Dad
that she was pregnant.
My immediate reaction was one of,
"Oh, God, I'm trapped."
As I already was feeling that
"I've had enough of this."
It's a boy!
But once Gerry Jr arrived,
I think he suddenly
found a connection.
He was desperate to make up for
any failures he'd made as a father
during his previous marriage.
In terms of his parenting,
Dad was, of course, a workaholic,
so he wasn't around that much.
But it would be unfair to say
that he didn't care.
He just showed it in unusual ways.
Like constantly worrying about
his kids coming to physical harm.
I think maybe it's a throwback
to Lionel's death
while he was away from home,
and the pain it inflicted
on his parents.
And I think it meant
that he was always concerned
that some harm may come to his
children if they were away from him.
I went to him and I said,
"We're going to France."
And he just put the boot in
and started coming out
with all this,
"Well, what if the plane door
comes open?"
I said, "Well,
we'll be sucked out, won't we?"
And those fears and anxieties
were often manifested on screen,
like in UFO.
And the lead character, Ed Straker,
is the head of a studio
with his marriage collapsing.
It's Dad's art imitating Dad's life.
It was fine
when we were all struggling,
but once we got there, erm,
there seemed to be nothing keeping
us together, really. No glue.
And finally,
you know,
there was total enmity between them.
But the enmity at the end
between Gerry and Sylvia
was vituperative or intense.
The whole crew knew
that it was going rotten,
and it was an unhappy time
for everybody.
At the end of every feature film
or television series,
there is an end-of-shooting party.
And things were so bad
with Sylvia and myself
that when we got home, I said,
"Look, if you want to go
to the party, that's fine,
"but if you're gonna go, I'm not."
And she said, "No, I'm not going,
I don't want to go.
"I'm not gonna spoil your evening."
And I said, "OK, fine."
And I went to the party.
It was all very nice,
and everyone was jolly,
and we were all drinking and happy,
and then she made her appearance.
She came in.
And I went over and said,
"I thought you weren't coming?"
And she said, "Why, is there a law
"that I can't come
to Pinewood Studios?"
And I got very, very steamed up.
You know, very hurt.
And when the party was over,
there was somebody who I knew very,
very well, David Withers -
he was a fairly important
member of ITC -
and Sylvia said, "We're going home.
Dave, do you wanna come with us?"
I was seething.
Last thing I wanted to do
was have to pretend
in front of people.
Cos I knew as soon as we got home,
there'd be a blazing row.
So he said, "Oh, lovely."
So he came back.
So there's Dave, Sylvia and myself.
And we were bickering.
And the argument
became quite intense.
You know, a really nasty,
nasty scene.
And Dave, who I'd known for years,
and I never knew
that he played the piano.
And he went over
and he lifted the piano,
and he started to play scales.
OK, Gerry. Keep it going.
And at the end of the argument,
I said,
"That's it, I've had enough,
"I'm not having any more.
I'm leaving."
That's when it was over.
Dad wanted to proceed
with a divorce.
The divorce case, and then
the custody case for Gerry Jr,
went on for, I think,
six or seven years from that point.
The break-up of the marriage
was costing dearly,
and I think the understanding was,
I got from Gerry,
that he virtually
used all of his savings
to try and get access to Gerry Jr.
But when I left Sylvia, I said,
"Look, we divide everything
exactly in half." Which we did.
She did her thing,
and I did my thing.
I bought my flat outright.
I did it up beautifully,
cos I know I'm gonna be a bachelor.
And then the trouble started
with Gerry.
A legal battle
to try and see my son.
From being a very successful person,
his life, I think,
took a very serious downturn,
and he really financially struggled,
and lost a lot of the wealth
that he had gained.
What happened was,
for however many years,
I was in and out of court,
barristers, affidavits,
God knows what,
and she used every trick in
the trade to prevent me seeing him.
Cos I remember him once saying,
"David, if she came into this room,
I'd hit her."
He was distraught,
because he'd sort of lost touch
with his two daughters
from his first marriage,
and he couldn't bear the thought
of losing a third child,
especially a son,
but Gerry was the apple of his eye,
He told me that
they were going to court
in the discussion
of the divorce proceedings,
and Gerry had turned up there
with his lawyer,
and he obviously had money still
to be able to afford his lawyer,
and was there in a suit,
and very presentable.
And Sylvia turned up in rags.
I don't ever remember seeing Sylvia
in old clothes.
She was always immaculate.
She was, erm,
dishevelled, I think
is the word that Gerry used.
Appealing on the court
so that they would award her
whatever the final award was.
He was outwitted by a smarter brain
when it came to that sort of thing.
I think the one thing that
I wasn't able to forgive her for
was that she made sure that he
didn't see his other son again.
This has been a long and tiring case
for all concerned.
Finally, I got a letter from
the court, I had won the case.
Lay it out,
I would see him every other weekend,
two weeks' holiday a year.
So I then phoned Sylvia and said,
"I would like to see Gerry
this weekend."
"Of course."
I said, "Oh, good,
I'll come and pick him up."
"No, no, no,
I'll deliver him to you."
"Thank you."
I woke up Saturday morning, because
there was a noise on the letterbox,
and I thought it was the postman.
When I went to the front door,
there was a letter.
Let's hope it's good news.
And it was from Gerry,
basically saying,
"Dear Dad, I don't want to see you.
I don't ever want to see you again."
When I met him for the first time,
after all these years,
he phoned me out of the blue,
and we met in a hotel,
like on neutral ground,
and he came in and said,
"Oh, hello", and he sat down,
and almost the first thing he said
"You realise
I didn't write that letter?
"I was made to write it."
It was almost the first thing
he said.
after their brief reconciliation,
the relationship broke down,
and Dad didn't see Gerry Jr again.
People go out of their way to say,
"Of course I'm not bitter.
"This man came in and blew my
mother's head off with a shotgun,
"but I'm not bitter." You know?
I'm bloody bitter!
Yes, I am bitter.
And I don't try to cover it.
You know, I think it was terrible.
And I think the truth is, I hate her
more every day that goes by.
Nothing gets better.
Nothing heals.
He was very vulnerable.
Very gullible.
And totally lost.
Yeah, he was pretty well drained
of money.
From the point when Lew
had agreed to fund Supercar,
Lew had always backed Dad,
for every project.
In fact, he famously got cross
with Dad
when Dad wasn't certain that
Lew would like an upcoming idea.
Which turned out to be,
I think, Thunderbirds.
And Lew said to Dad...
"Gerry, if you want to make a series
about that light bulb,
"I'll back it."
By the mid-late 1970s,
ATV, which had then become ITC,
was a lot more corporate.
It had got bigger,
America was involved,
and Lew was beginning
to lose his grip of ATV.
He was no longer the man
who could just say,
"Yeah, let's make it,
I'll find the money."
Suddenly, he was under scrutiny
from other people within ATV.
Well, the president of Lew's
company in New York phoned and said,
"Lew, cancel the renewal."
And I think that meant that Lew
could no longer be the yes-man
that he always had been.
I think he could see disaster
coming down the tracks.
And then that left Dad
without a solid backer.
Looks like I'm on my own.
Once Space: 1999 finished,
there was no work.
If this is the end of one life,
we have to start to build a new one.
In my biography,
the dedication reads,
"To Mary, who saved my life."
And that's absolutely true.
She was a gentle soul.
She was nice.
She wasn't assertive, or aggressive,
or someone who's always got to win.
She didn't get caught up
in his drama.
It's not uncommon for people
to refer to their wives
as their better halves,
and Gerry, I think,
lucked out with Mary.
She was his better half,
in many respects.
We used to go to a pub in Cookham.
It was a pub where Arthur,
the waiter,
contributed his voice to Parker.
And there was a very sophisticated
girl standing there,
and I suppose, if the truth
were to be known,
I used to look at her
and have thoughts
that I can't repeat on camera.
But some years later,
I was sitting there,
I'd left Sylvia now,
and I was very lonely,
and a very attractive girl
came around
with a big silver tray of drinks.
And then I said to somebody,
"Who is the girl?"
And they said, "Don't be daft,
"she's the girl who used to work
at The King's Arms."
I think he was just finishing
the first series of Space: 1999,
And I was working at Bray
for Brian Johnson
on the special effects unit.
I've never been very good
with women,
so I kind of went home and rehearsed
how I was going to ring her,
and I made up some cock and bull
story and invited her over,
and that's how it all began.
He had got into a position, I think,
where he thought, after Sylvia,
he would never get married again.
You don't marry the person
you want to live with.
You marry the person
you can't live without.
But Mum appears to have been
the right person to change his mind.
When he learned that
I was expecting, he was surprised.
A baby! Ooh!
I was horrified.
I mean, you know, "I'll be dead
before the child's grown up."
And she was very philosophical
about it, and she talked me into it.
And suddenly I had a family again.
And everything returned to normal,
everything was repaired,
and life is great once more.
That was when Gerry
was really happy, I think.
'Turn around.'
'Don't come any closer.'
I think Mary grounded him.
And one thing for sure I can say
is that Mary didn't marry me
for my money.
As a matter of fact, she used to
go out to work and earn money
while I was at home
wearing an overcoat
because the flat was so cold
and we couldn't afford to put
the heating on, writing a script,
and then she would spend
the whole evening
typing it out and putting it
into good English.
And I think that was around the time
the bailiffs had been in
and confiscated some paintings.
It really shows
you've hit rock bottom
when the bailiffs come in.
And it wasn't until, I think,
we met Christopher Burr
that life started to look
a little bit better.
Christopher Burr was a very,
very complex character.
Very, very complicated.
An utterly brilliant businessman.
He, after several trips to Japan,
got the money together
for Terrahawks.
He's a miracle man.
An absolute miracle man.
So he raised the money for the show.
But it wasn't nearly enough.
And I was desperate to make it.
And it was the first stepping stone
to my recovery.
They weren't besties,
but they worked well together.
And then, as people do,
Christopher suddenly, I think,
got a bit bored
with the film business.
I think what brought it to an end
was that Christopher bought himself
a lovely house in Portugal,
and he fell in love with Portugal.
And he started to play golf.
And finally, I said to him,
"I don't think we can go on."
And we decided to part company
They didn't really talk again,
because Gerry had this thing
of once people were out of his life,
they were out.
don't come about easily.
Gerry wasn't above demonising people
in his shows.
I was aware of Roger Lefkon,
who was part of the funding package
for Space Precinct.
I heard that there were funding
problems on Space Precinct.
I heard Roger's name was associated
with those funding problems.
And so Dad was adamant
that when they made
new Captain Scarlet in 2005,
that the baddie, Captain Black,
be given the surname Lefkon.
The only thing we're both certain
of is Conrad Lefkon died on Mars.
The Mysterons killed him.
And then, of course,
there is Zelda in Terrahawks.
Be quiet, you snivelling wretch!
Richard Gregory had told me that
he was given loose instruction
to push the character
in a particular direction,
which made it look
not unlike Sylvia.
And being the evil character,
evil demon in the show,
it was obviously a loaded sculpt.
I can leave it up to
viewers of Terrahawks
to decide whether they think
that's true or not.
I think that had Gerry
kept all his contacts and friends
as he moved up through
his various series,
he would have probably done
a lot better in later years.
To me, a relationship
is the only thing that counts.
And I remember he said to me,
"Oh, John,
I wish I'd seen more of you.
"When I was busy,
I was asked to lunch and everything.
"Soon as I haven't any work,
nobody wants to know."
Everybody who had a friendship
with Gerry formerly
was somebody who was useful to him,
I think.
He found it very hard
to make friends,
and I think he just,
maybe in the earlier days,
didn't see the value of maintaining
good relationships with people.
If you look at Gerry's history
with producers,
there's a long list of producers
who worked with him.
You have failed,
and must pay the price.
He had a thin skin, I think, Gerry.
As with Oscar Wilde,
there was a thing called
The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies.
My temperament is like
riding a roller-coaster.
I don't think I'm the only one
who'll say
that if he took against somebody,
then there'd be fireworks.
He wouldn't work with them again.
I remember when we were making
a commercial for Toilet Duck.
It was always difficult
working with clients from abroad,
and certainly, our clients
didn't have very good English.
And Gerry would always
check with them and say,
"This is the set up, have a look
through the camera, are you happy?"
"Yeah, yeah, everybody's happy."
And so we probably spent
two or three hours doing the setup.
We were running behind because it
was such a complicated shot to get.
And eventually, we did get the shot,
and Gerry was happy,
and he turned around to the
advertising agency representatives
and said, "Are you happy?"
And they went,
"Yeah, yeah, we're happy."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, yeah."
And so we started to strike the set,
and then one of them turned around
and said, "Oh, could we just...?"
And Gerry just went
absolutely ballistic,
and screamed and shouted
and whatever.
No bad language, but...
I'm not afraid to say what I think.
I'm not afraid of
going into a blazing row.
If that's what it takes
to get the bitter out, I'll do it.
I think if Gerry thought he was
being creatively trodden upon,
then that would be enough,
on occasion, to,
if he didn't like you,
to put you on the back burner.
I think we all know
when a relationship
starts to come to an end.
As Captain Scarlet finished,
Gerry and I's working relationship
wasn't as good as it had been.
I actually called Gerry
and said to him,
"Listen, Gerry, I think this is
a really disappointing situation.
"I don't want it to end like this,
"and I'd just like
if we could maintain a friendship."
And Gerry very kindly said,
"Come up for lunch."
But he was a different Gerry.
He'd made his decision,
and I wasn't gonna be a part
of any future productions.
It didn't matter to him
that I wasn't a friend any more.
Towards the end of his life,
I think that was more likely
because of his dementia kicking in.
It's beyond my comprehension,
the thought of retiring,
not unless some ill health
forces it.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
None of us on the production
knew that he wasn't very well.
Looking back on it,
there were clear and obvious signs.
I recall around 2003,
so long before
there was any diagnosis,
or any real sign
that there was something wrong.
He would forget appointments,
or get them muddled,
he'd get them on the wrong day.
His driving became erratic.
Dad had come into London to
pick me and a friend up from Fulham
and drive us back home.
And we were driving out on the M4,
and my friend Jack
nudged me in the ribs
and looked down
at the side of the car,
and I looked down,
and his lane placement
was really weird,
he was sort of...
Not even drifting, but just the car
was placed slightly over
the white lines, out of the lane.
He was a really good driver.
He was a fast driver,
but he had really good reflexes.
I mean,
I think he really enjoyed driving.
And at the time, I just thought,
"Oh, he's distracted", or whatever.
Looking at his GPS monitor, or
thinking about something else, or...
But that was the start of us seeing
changes in his driving ability,
changes in his spatial awareness.
By early 2004,
I was seeing more strange moments
in his driving.
Entering roundabouts
in the wrong lane,
having little, tiny accidents,
just where he would
sort of scrape his car,
little things that, at the time,
you think, "Oh, he's being clumsy",
but it all added up to
starting to look a bit strange.
And within a year of that,
he was starting to have
real problems driving.
Again, which, at the time...
It seems ridiculous now,
but you brush them off,
and you say, "Oh, he's stressed",
or, "He's tired."
He would get lost on a simple
journey between home and Pinewood.
Which, you know,
was his second home.
He'd been coming to Pinewood
for probably 50 years by that point.
So, one time he came to Pinewood
to have lunch with me,
and he'd got back into his car
and taken four hours to get home.
I was about to call the police
to report him missing.
And you would think, at that point,
that your natural response would be,
"OK, we've got to get this
checked out", but even then...
Because he was so insistent
that he was absolutely fine,
and there was no problem,
you would just sort of go, "Oh, OK,
we'll agree with you, in that case."
I can't remember the exact incident
that catalysed me into action.
But I think I remember watching
a documentary about Terry Pratchett,
who had recently been diagnosed
with a very specific
form of dementia called PCA.
And in that documentary,
I think Terry talked about confusing
the phone for the TV remote.
And I thought,
"I've seen Dad do that."
I rung him,
and every time I rung him,
he picked up the phone
and he said, "Hello,"
and I said,
"Hello, Daddy, it's Joy."
And he put the phone down.
And I thought,
"That's really strange,
"I don't think we've had
an argument or anything."
So I tried again and again,
and every time, it was the same.
So I just stopped ringing.
I just thought, "I think we've
got to do something about this."
And so I suggested
that I go and speak to Dad's GP,
and I would explain to her that
I was worried about his behaviour
and I thought there was something
going on, maybe dementia-related,
and that could she approach this
very delicately?
She couldn't possibly tell him
that I'd been in to see her,
because he'd be really upset
by that, and she assured me
she would handle it
professionally and carefully.
I explained this all
very, very carefully,
and she agreed a course of action.
Dad was due in
for a diabetes screening,
because he lived with diabetes
for a long time,
and he went in to see her
for his appointment, sat down,
and the first thing she said was,
"Mr Anderson,
your son's been to see me,
"and he thinks there's
something wrong with your brain."
He just hit the roof.
I mean, to him,
this was the ultimate act
of disloyalty against him.
He said, in a moment, "I understand
why you did what you did,
"but what you've done is
the kiss of death for my career."
I don't think he would speak to me
for about two weeks.
Anyway, he eventually agreed
to having a few more tests,
and a dementia diagnosis
was confirmed.
There is a particular drawing
that one does
as part of a neuropsychological
battery of testing,
which is to draw a clock face.
And to draw a particular time on it.
And I think that was the thing
that made him realise
that he was actually
living with Alzheimer's disease.
It's deeply unpleasant for
the person living with dementia,
but one could argue it's even worse
for those around them.
Sometimes I had to phone Jamie
and say,
"If you don't come home
and have your father for half a day,
"I'm gonna knife him."
I mean, it was that bad.
And anybody who's lived with
somebody with dementia
will tell you the same thing.
It changes the way you think.
It changes the way you act
towards people you know and love.
And Dad would often lash out
and say extremely hurtful
and unpleasant things.
It was very tough.
I mean, any carer will tell you,
because you do slip
into the role of carer,
and you become, at best, grey,
at worst, invisible.
There's little assistance.
I tried several times
to get somebody to come in
to sit with him,
or maybe take him out,
and he didn't like them,
didn't want them.
I mean, she did an incredible job.
She was his 24/7 carer
for over two years.
There was a point at which
he had accepted the diagnosis,
we were sat chatting,
and he said, "Well, I don't know,
"I don't see what the point
of having a diagnosis is,
"because what are they gonna do?"
And I... I just chanced it and said,
"The other thing you could do
now that you've got a diagnosis
"is you could try
and maybe raise awareness about it.
"You could talk publicly about it,
and it might do some good."
And I thought,
"There's no way he's gonna do this,
"because he's already complaining
about the fact
"that it's ended his career",
and coming out about
having Alzheimer's disease
was absolutely the last nail
in the coffin for his career.
But he, remarkably, said,
"Hmm, I think I'd like to have
a chat with somebody about that."
One day, I got a call, I think it
was about spring, 2012, from Jamie,
introducing himself, and saying
who he was, and who his father was.
Gerry himself was very aware
that, being a figure
in the public realm,
that once he'd made a formal
announcement about his dementia,
that could be
a positive force for good.
It was fairly unusual
to get a call like that,
of someone of that calibre,
and that worldwide recognition,
to want to do something for others.
And I particularly found it very
heart-warming, and very humbling.
After having chats with Jamie
and the family,
we decided that Gerry
could really support us
in promoting one of our campaigns,
which is an ongoing campaign
called Memory Walk.
He agreed to start
the Alzheimer's Society Memory Walk
at Battersea, in London.
It's their flagship event.
And he was starting it
alongside Carey Mulligan
and Mat Whitecross, the director.
And the morning of,
I was staying at home,
and it was supposed to be me driving
him up to London for this event,
and I think it was
the last public event that he did,
because he was deteriorating
so fast.
And I went upstairs,
and I opened the door,
and he was still in bed,
and he stared at me and said,
"What are you doing in here...
after what you've done?!"
And I said, "What have I done, Dad?
What's happened?"
And he said, "You've moved the door.
"I could have fallen down the stairs
because you've moved the door."
And then he said,
"And who sent those children up?"
"What children?"
"There were children
dancing around my bed, singing."
And it's only been quite recently,
when we've been looking back
at his life,
that it suddenly occurred to me
that that was a relived memory
of one of the strongest
recollections he had
of his experience of anti-Semitism.
Which was a bunch of kids
dancing around him,
taunting him at school,
calling him "Jew boy."
And knowing how bad he'd been,
I thought,
"There's no way he's gonna be
able to do this start."
Because he's got to make a speech.
When he arrived,
he was actually on great form.
He had a lot of... There was
a lot of love in the crowd.
There was over 1,000 people there.
I think 2,000 people there.
And loads of them, of course,
were Thunderbirds fans,
so they were delighted
to see Gerry there.
And he responded so well to that.
He kind of shone in the spotlight.
He gave a five-minute
hilarious speech.
The public perception of dementia
changed hugely
thanks to Gerry Anderson's
I think that Memory Walk,
or that year's Memory Walk,
raised over 1 million
for Alzheimer's Society.
Which they have directly attributed
to him.
It made me really proud, actually,
because he was such a private man,
who got so easily embarrassed,
I felt very forgiving, actually.
I just thought,
"Well, good on you, Dad,
"that you've been prepared
to do this."
Because, in a sense,
for somebody like him,
losing control was like
the ultimate humiliation.
When he was in quite late stages
of Alzheimer's disease,
I realised
he was forgetting my name.
And I would say,
"Hello, Dad, it's Jamie."
And the recognition of that,
and the meaning of that was fading.
And then, one day, I was...
I think, actually,
we were doing an interview
for a morning programme,
about Alzheimer's disease,
and he said to the crew,
"Well, if you need anything,
my big brother's over there."
And he pointed at me.
And... At the time, I just thought,
"Oh, this is a moment of confusion,
and he'll get over it."
But from that moment forward,
he only referred to me
as his big brother.
I actually felt quite touched
by that.
I said to Jamie,
"That's a real compliment,
"because, you know,
if he's mixing you up with Lionel,
"Lionel was very, very special,
"so he knows you're very special,
"even if he can't
get your name right."
From the time that Dad
got his diagnosis, he always said,
"The moment I am not safe at home,
I want to go into care."
He had more and more hallucinations
about the space he was living in,
and he got more and more confused
about where he could go.
And it was getting to the point
when we thought, "He is days away
"from potentially stepping out
across the top step
"and falling down the stairs."
So Mum and I agreed that it was time
that he needed to go into care.
Because, you know, she and I
were both at home full time,
and we couldn't cope
and give him everything he needed
to keep him safe and well.
It was horrendous, because he didn't
really understand what was going on.
So we took him up to the room,
took all of his stuff up there,
got him settled,
and he just kept saying,
"Well, I'm not staying here, am I?"
There was a real sense
of separation anxiety.
And, er...
He came to the door of the room,
and the nurse was outside,
and she said, "Hello, Mr Anderson,
how are you settling in?"
And he sort of looked at her
and said, "I'm not settling in,
I'm not staying."
And she said, "Well, would
you like to meet your neighbour?"
I said, "That'll be nice, Dad,
let's meet your neighbour."
An elderly lady came to the door,
and the nurse said,
"Mr Anderson,
this is your neighbour.
"Her name's Sylvia."
And even now, saying it,
I can feel my heart leaping into
my mouth, because I just thought,
"This is terrible, this could not be
worse. How is he gonna react?"
And sort of everything
went in slow motion,
and after a couple of seconds,
he reached out and said,
"Oh, hello, nice to meet you,"
and shook her hand.
And it was in that moment
that I knew for sure
that he was no longer Dad, really.
And they say to you,
"Don't come and visit for ten days.
"Let the...
Let the person settle in."
You go back after ten days,
and the person
doesn't know you any more.
It wasn't just Mum
that he'd forgotten by that stage.
He couldn't remember
any of the shows that he'd made.
Not one.
And he'd been given
a Parker puppet by a fan
that I took to the care home
to try and comfort him, but...
Even that meant nothing to him.
We had a, er...
We had Christmas Day at Mum's.
And he had really declined
very, very quickly
once he'd gone into the home,
I mean...
You know, memories of
where was home and who was Mary.
All these things had gone.
Erm, they thought that we had
maybe four or five days to go.
Because I knew
that the end was coming,
I decided that on Boxing Day morning
that I would drive home,
get a load of overnight stuff
and then come back
and live at Mum's, because...
I wanted to be around.
So, we were driving...
And my phone rang.
And I thought, "Oh, no."
So I pulled over and answered it.
And that was the home,
to say that he'd passed away.
It was about two hours
before I would've gone back.
When we knew what he knew,
that he didn't have that long to go,
I said, "Now,
we need to talk about funeral."
"We'll do something nice and small,
"I don't want a small funeral!
"I want a huge funeral!"
So that's what he had.
Dying on Boxing Day...
er, was, was great for that.
So, he got a huge amount
of news coverage,
and all the way through,
I was just thinking,
"God, he really timed this well,
"because this is exactly
what he would've wanted."
And so much positivity.
You know, people...
People tweeting me
and tweeting stuff about him,
and, you know,
I think somebody tweeted
that a light had gone out
in the universe.
People saying, erm...
"You made my childhood
very special."
Which was very gratifying.
What else do you do
for Gerry Anderson's funeral,
other than get
a life-size FAB 1 pink Rolls-Royce
to pull up at the funeral?
His funeral was amazing.
People came from all over the place.
Came from all over the world.
We managed to get all the kids
together in the same place.
They all came to the funeral.
It brought us all together.
And, er, I was really chuffed
that Gerry Jr
agreed to be a pallbearer.
And then we had
a sort of get-together,
and actually, it was quite strange,
especially reflecting on it now,
just how many people there were.
As we've discovered,
he did not necessarily maintain
personal professional relationships
that well,
and yet, hundreds and hundreds
of people turned up.
As part of his ongoing relationship
with Alzheimer's Society
and Alzheimer's Research,
he had pre-donated his brain.
We were ardently campaigning
to a particular project
to forward research into dementia,
and it was called,
and it is called
Brains for Dementia Research.
I got a call from the family, erm,
and I was told
that he would be very happy
to have his brain
left in a bucket for research.
It shows the man's humour.
I think Mum and I held onto
his ashes for nearly a year
before really deciding what to do.
And then, one day,
we just chatted and said...
"Do you know,
these should really go to Pinewood.
"That's where he belongs."
So, Mum and I
and Joy and Linda came down.
I think, er, Gerry Jr had gone back
to his home by then in Tasmania,
and we just had
a nice, private 15 minutes.
We were gonna pour the ashes
into the lake from the bridge,
but it was a bit windy
and that wasn't going to work,
so I just went down by the lakeside
while Mum and my two sisters
stood on the bridge, while I...
..poured his ashes into the lake.
It's a beautiful place, and it's
nice to have somewhere that is...
despite its surroundings,
it's sort of unique to him.
So there's...
Yeah, there was nowhere better.
People like that
don't come along very often,
who established a whole new genre
in entertainment
which is loved, universally,
by everybody.
You know, whenever I'm asked
about Thunderbirds,
people's eyes light up.
He didn't deserve
to have such a terrible end.
When I left Mum's house,
I set off on a journey
of several hundred miles
to come to a place that...
has become more and more apparent
that is the site
of so much of Dad's inspiration.
It's the place
where one incident happened
that changed his life forever
and set him on a path of creation,
trying to become a success,
trying to make something
of his life.
And after many, many hundreds
of miles, and many hours of driving,
we are about to arrive...
at that place,
in Arnhem, in the Netherlands.
"The Queen and I offer you
our heartfelt sympathy
"in your great sorrow.
"We pray that your country's
gratitude for a life so nobly given
"in its service may bring you
some measure of consolation."
But I suspect that was
of little comfort to them.
I started this journey not really
fully understanding Dad. Erm...
Understanding some things about him
and feeling like I had an inkling
of what motivated him
and why he did what he did
and why he behaved the way he did.
If it wasn't for Lionel
first asking that question
about what's at
the edge of the universe,
and it wasn't for
his time in Light Rescue,
his time as a hero pilot,
a template for nearly every
leading character in Dad's shows,
and without Lionel's
brush with Hollywood,
then Dad's life might've
taken a very different path.
But really, I think nothing
affected him more in Lionel's life
than Lionel's death.
Not only did his death inspire him
to create utopian worlds that
were devoid of religion and war,
Lionel was an idol
that he tried to live up to,
but he never felt that he succeeded.
But I think it instilled in him
the need to be successful
and to try and make his parents
proud of him.
That's in spite of Debbie
telling him
that he should've been killed
instead of his brother.
Dad would've done anything
to make his parents proud,
even though it was most likely
their dysfunctional marriage
that led him to being
unable to deal with conflicts,
be they professional or personal.
His parents' failings would see Dad
try to create
his perfect childhood on screen,
filled with money
and toys and gadgets.
But no mothers
and only strong fathers.
Without all these
hidden childhood influences,
his creations would
likely never have existed.
So having started this journey
not really...
knowing Dad at all...
..I feel like I can now say
that I, I do know him.
Possibly better
than he knew himself.
So, here...
at the final resting place
of the most influential figure
in Dad's life...
is the best place
for my journey of discovery
to come to an end.
I don't think
I've got the kind of mind
that worries about being remembered.
But I suppose I'd like to think
people said that he was a nice guy,
and I think I would like
people to say that
he was a very responsible person
with the films that he made.
That he did not encourage people
to shoot Grandma through the head,
and didn't encourage drug-taking,
and hopefully brought
a lot of good quality,
wholesome entertainment for kids.
I had a friend
who would describe somebody
and say,
"He was a very human being."
I think it's nice,
and perhaps that's something
I'd like to be described as.
If you could say anything
to Gerry today,
what would you say?
I just...
What would I say?
I'd have just wanted to say
"Thank you" to him.
"Thank you for the excitement."
I think simply
that he was appreciated.
I'm really glad
that you met somebody
that you were able to be happy with
for the rest of your life.
I'd want him to know that...
Oh, God. Stop it.
I want him to know that
I forgive him for everything.
And I think just that he should've
been beyond satisfied
with his success.
A big, loud, roaring "thank you".
Er, I'm not the only one that cried
on the day he died, I'm sure.
Well, we did nearly,
just over 30 years married,
and they said it would never last.
There we are, proved them wrong.